Age Friendly Edmonton was proud to host two more Lunch ‘n’ Learn events in October. The events come on the heels of the inaugural events hosted in June for Seniors’ Week. Due to the popularity of the Lunch ‘n’ Learn events, the AFE team expects these noontime educational sessions to continue into the future.
On October 7, a panel of older Edmontonians including Edmonton-based artist, Karen Vande Vyvere; former politician, Stephen Mandel; and Geriatric and General Medicine specialist Dr. Adrian Wagg gathered to share their perspectives on ageism. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sheree Kwong See, professor of psychology at the University of Alberta and strategic advisor on Age Friendly Edmonton’s Ageism Hub.
“There's a quite a body of research now that shows that when older people are treated according to stereotypes as opposed to their own individuality, that there can be impacts on health and wellbeing,” says Dr. Sheree Kwong See. “Likewise, research shows that when older people internalize age stereotypes, there can be an impact on health and wellbeing.”
Given the detrimental effects of ageism, panelists discussed the importance of countering negative stereotypes as well as encouraging realistic conversations about the aging experience. There is no universal experience of growing older.
“Physiologically, the way our bodies are generally is about 10 years younger than they were 20 to 40 years ago,” explains Dr. Wagg. “So, I haven't experienced aging yet. I'm 57. I don't consider myself an old. I'd just seen a 92-year-old who said, ‘actually, when I get to be 94, maybe things will start going wrong, and I will feel a bit older.’”
“I thought when you became an adult, you would, you would have all the answers you would...all the pieces of the puzzle would be put together neatly”, says Vande Vyvere. “I thought this would happen at 20 initially, and then 30, and then probably 40, and for sure 50. Well, I'm 60 now, and I haven't arrived [at those answers]. And it's for me, it's stunning. I am never going to arrive...I'm still a kid inside! So, I suspect 90-year-olds are kids inside. I'm cloaked in a body that's aging, but I am still a kid.”
“The fact is, we should never limit our expectation that limit our capacity, nor allow people--whoever they happen to be--to tell us we should or shouldn't be able to do something,” remarks Mandel. “If we believe we can do it, we should go ahead and do it.”
For the second Lunch ‘n’ Learn in October (held Oct. 20), community members Peter Faid, Joan Eales, Dale Blue, and Jeannette Sinclair gathered to share experiences of aging in place and what that means for them and their families. Participants shared how they planned to age in their communities with solutions ranging from building age friendly homes to downsizing and moving to smaller apartments, and moving into seniors’ residences. Moderated by Edmonton55’s Jolyn Hall, the conversation showed there’s no “one size fits all” solution to aging in place and the importance of having an aging in place plan.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Joan Eales recognized she needed to downsize and relocate to meet her needs. “I needed to relocate to Edmonton for better social support,” says Joan. “With my daughter, a local realtor, and FaceTime, we found a condo close to my daughter that was a good size and a layout that would meet my future needs.”
After realizing that many of his friends could not visit his home due to the large number of stairs, accessibility became a major focal point for Peter Faid. Through his research into what makes a home age friendly, Faid discovered the “3 principles of visibility”: zero-step entries, 36-inch exterior doors, and having a wheelchair accessible bathroom on the main floor. Armed with this knowledge, Faid and his wife embarked on building an friendly home that would allow them to remain in their community.
Dale Blue’s healthy aging plan involved downsizing into a seniors residence that would provide increased health supports for him in the future, should he need it. “I'm independent now, but we don't know what the future is going to bring,” says Dale. “My arthritis is getting worse and at some point I may have to have surgery.” Since making the move, Dale has found himself enjoying the amenities of congregate living, including social and recreational activities and accessible transportation.
Sometimes, unexpected circumstances necessitate making decisions on the fly. Jeanette Sinclair shared the story of her mother who moved into long-term care following a series of strokes. While it is tradition in Sinclair’s Northern Cree culture to keep older family members with the family, her mother’s health needs required more intensive care. “The severity of it created us to have really no choice but to find a long-term care facility for her in a very short period of time,” says Sinclair.
Missed the sessions? Catch them at the links below!
Ageism and Aging: Upsides-Downsides
Join Age Friendly Edmonton for a panel featuring community leaders for a rich discussion on ‘ageism.’ This form of discrimination based on age is an issue faced by both younger and older individuals. Current research shows that in a society where the positive aspects of aging are promoted, improved aging health and an increase in life expectancy enables seniors to continue to be viewed as valuable, contributing members of society.